July 31, 2011

Better Late than Never

A while back, June 26th to be exact, I won a great blog contest. And I am so grateful I did. Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher sent me a $25 giftcard and sparked two trips to two different Targets where I finally found all the great things you wonderful ladies have been posting about.  Anyways, I just wanted to thank her and show you all the great loot that I purchased. I'm sorry for the crummy shot, and that it is so late, but I am really grateful. 

Thank you Julie! You are the best!
Did you know she is having another giveaway and you might be the lucky one to win this time? A $20 GC to Baffin Bags! I am thinking of snagging this one for my sister, who is mad about cupcakes and baking.
Fabric Organizer Bin Basket - Pink CupcakeLANYARD ID BADGE Key Holder - Red with White Mini Polka Dots
Baffin Bags has lots of cute lanyards as well. They look sturdy and cute. Which is good considering I broke 4 last year. :)

Or LivyLou is offering a 12x18 fabric covered magnet board. I like this one best. Fabric Magnet Board (12"x18") -Polka Dot
The giveaway ends Tuesday! So try your luck soon. Click HERE to enter.

July 28, 2011

It's a party and you are invited!

 Effective Teaching Articles is throwing a weeklong back to school party! Want to get it on the daily giveaways and free printables? Click on the invitation starting August 1st. Want even more? Blog about her giveaway before then and you can pick anything you want from her TPT store for free! She has pages and pages of great resources, so make sure you pop over and check her out.
Her Store

July 27, 2011

Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire - Part 2

A while back I posted my first reactions to parts of this book. I thought that today I would attempt to finish my thoughts. :) Sorry it has taken me so long.

I think I loved this book because it resonated with several other books I have been reading this summer. Rafe Esquith is a firm believer of recommending books to his students, just like Donalyn Miller from the Book Whisperer. He talks about starting book clubs before, during, and after school. I want to do that! He discusses comparing books to visual representations. (I just read about that in the common core.) I think allowing children to see the movie after reading a book is a great exercise in comparing and contrasting and point of view.   Rafe also a believer in treating students fairly, just like Jim Fay and David Funk. (I love them and plan to share about them at a latter date.)

Rafe seems to echo the things I believe and he has a lot of great ideas. Some of the ones I loved? Just keep reading! :)

How many of you can name, label, and state the capital of all 50 states? What about countries across the globe? Rafe's kids can. He teaches them basic geography and then starts a game. He divides them into teams and asks questions. Teams work together to answer. In order to stop blurting he developed the 4/7 rule. 4 points if you get it right, minus 7 if you were wrong. He starts slowly and builds. Soon students are studying the atlas and reading informational books. How great would it be to be a student in his class? I would love it.
I want to create that kind of atmosphere. I want a social studies corner with maps, globes, books, and writing supplies. I want to complete the Great American Mail Race with my students. Have you heard of it before? Your students write letters to different schools across the Unites States and wait for replies. For more information, read what another blogger has to say HERE.

I want to develop a science center as well. Last year, we did not cover as much science as I wish we had.  We covered weather, habitats, states of matter, and types of animals. We watched a lot of great Brain Pop Jr. videos. (Great website. A little pricey) But I need to do it more actively and let the children explore. How are little scientist supposed to find their passion, unless we provide them with the hands-on experiences? There is so much out there to help you. I want them to see weather in action. I want them to experiment. I want them to get their hands dirty. I hope if you are feeling the same, you take the time to look at some of these activities. Some are great! Some not so great. But consider it a start.

Rafe also talks about PE. Last year I was lucky enough to have a specialist teach PE to my children, but I have the feeling that might not always be true. His advice? Teach them the fundamentals, get them moving each day, teach them to show sportsmanship at all times, work as a team, and apply lessons learned to other parts of life. Something else he suggested was keeping statistics and splitting them up. It's ok to have some children run while you teach a smaller group a necessary skill. (I know it's odd, but that was an Ah Ha! moment for me.)

Still with me? Wow, I'm impressed. :) I still have a bit to say and I think this post is already too long.

The last idea I wanted to share? A classroom economy. Classroom economies - do the work and you get paid. Use that money to bid for items at the class store and pay to use classroom supplies. You must rent your desk every week. If you save up enough money you can buy it. If you save more, you can buy a friends desk. Children learn all about supply, demand, income, and debt in the classroom. Looking for a more detailed plan? Beth Newingham is the one to go to. See her ideas about a classroom economy HERE. Teaching Happily Ever After has some ideas as well, check her out HERE. Or visit Lesson Plan SOS, Here. They have some great printable pages as well.

I know Rafe is most famous for his Hobart Shakespeareans, I am just not quite ready to tackle that idea. Rafe does an excellent job of integrating the arts into his classroom, and if you are looking for an example, you won't do poorly by copying him.

The End - Aren't you glad? ;)

July 26, 2011

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

I love this book! As with all Judy Blume books, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing  is full of hilarity and amazing accidents.  I remember reading it as a child and sympathizing with Peter. Granted I do not have a crazy little brother named Fudge but I do have siblings. We got into all kinds of trouble together.  I also babysat some amazing children. This is a great book to catch the attention of students with siblings, students who love pets, and students who love to laugh. I laughed aloud several times and was caught grinning like a loon by my husband at least once.  Your students will fall in love with the characters and will be hooked into reading many other great Judy Blume books.
 P.S. Did you know Judy Blume blogs? I didn't. But now I do. And so do you. Feel free to sneak a peek. Judy Blume's Blog. Did you also know that Fudge was based on her son, Larry when he was a toddler? Or that her favorite color is purple? You learn all that and more just by exploring her website.
Next on the list? The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming. Get ready for a fun review and a simple lesson plan.

July 25, 2011

Technology Adventures

I have been trying to fix up my blog to have a cleaner, more organized look. I want it to look as cute and professional as all the other ladies I follow. But, I'm kind of technologically clueless and I don't have the budget to pay someone to fix it just yet. I keep entering blog design giveaways, but haven't gotten lucky yet. Some day. Until then, I am a slow work in progress.

Because I am doing this myself, I love when I find simple tutorials. Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files is a huge help. Video #2 of one of her latest posts is my new favorite. I learned how to make pages! Put that together with some of the things I learned when I made my blogger button and I was inspired to make my new topic buttons. I did most of it myself, though my husband helped center them. I'm getting better with each new project. If you find yourself in the same boat, send me a message and I would be glad to help you with my limited knowledge. :)

What do you think of my progress so far?  Do you know how to make your own blog design? Where did you learn? Do any of you have some great tutorials or websites you can point me towards? I would love all the help I can get.


As I was exploring Oh' Boy Fourth Grade's Blog I saw a disclosure statement at the bottom of her page. I thought it was important enough to generate my own, and so I have. This policy was generated using disclosurepolicy.org. Feel free to read it, or skip over it. Thank you!

This policy is valid from 25 July 2011

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.

This blog abides by word of mouth marketing standards. We believe in honesty of relationship, opinion and identity. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.

The owner(s) of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

July 24, 2011

Feeling Lucky?

So, I feel bad I haven't been blogging a lot lately. Sorry, I have been a little consumed with creating my first unit. Right now, it is over 30 pages long and I still have ideas I want to add.  I plan to make it up to you by sharing info on all the great giveaways I have heard about.

Ready to test your luck?

First Grade Pandamonium is giving away a free unit to anyone who blogs about her giveaway and leaves a comment. She has an adorable blog that you just need to check out before midnight tomorrow. 

Oh' Boy Fourth Grade is hosting an amazing clipart giveaway worth over $850. Hop over to her site and see how you can have nine chances to enter!

Fun in First is teaming up with 10 other teachers for her 1000 follower giveaway. Win a ton of amazing resources from some of the best and brightest bloggers around. Hop over to see how you can win. Hurry you have until August 1, 2011.
Fun in First

Ana at Ingles 360 is teaming up with 8 other bloggers in a  Friendship Giveaway. Hurry on over, because you only have until the 27th.  

Not ready for Back to School? 12 bloggers have teamed up together to help make the transition easier with a Back to School Bonanza! They have arranged an amazing giveaway. See what you have to do to win before July, 28th by visiting the Teacher Wife.

July 21, 2011

Who doesn't love free things?

Just Another Day in First Grade is giving away a free unit about shoes! I love it. All you need to do to snag a free copy is blog about her unit then link back to her and leave a comment with your e-mail. Hurry, you need to do this before Monday morning or you will miss your chance.

Karla at Life in Special Education hit 100 followers. In order to celebrate she is offering to make one of her TPT items free. All you need to do is go to her store, browse, and then link back and comment which one you think should win.

Denise at Yearn to Learn is hosting a giveaway that is ending on the 25th. You could win all 48 of her task card sets by following her. Even if you don't win you can get 5 sets for free by clicking on the link in  her post. (It's tricky, you need to click on the photo) She also has a cute battleship activity here.

Want to know a secret? I LOVE free things.

Want to know a better secret? I am working on my first ever unit. And there is clipart involved. I know, me using clipart. I am so proud! I think if I get up to 50 followers I will share a fun activity. :)

July 19, 2011

Fourth Grade Weirdo

Fourth Grade Weirdo by Martha Freeman
An adorable book about a order loving young boy who ends up in the classroom of a creative teacher. I loved the interactions between Dexter, his teacher, Mr. Ditzwinkle, and his classmates. 
Are you like Dexter? Do you love math, straight lines, and schedules? Or are you more like Mr. Ditzwinkle? Do you love creative projects? Can you stand on your hands? I think I am a mixture of the two. I can be completely OCD about a lot of things, but I love to share great ideas. Great read, good vocabulary, awesome character development, and a fun mystery.
 Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you have a favorite part?Stay tuned. Next on the reading list is Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.

July 18, 2011

My OCD is showing

Can you tell that I had a long nap today? Yes. I am still WIDE awake at 1:00 A.M. So I decided I would try to organize some of the many blogs I follow. Let's face it, I'm an addict. I realized this after I organized just my Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade blogs. Yup. More than 30 blogs.
Click Here for K-2nd Blogs
In an effort to organize them all I made a sqworl page.  I am incredibly proud of myself. My early elementary blogs are now ordered by grade alphabetically.  Feel free to browse. If you know of some great blogs that are not on the list feel free to leave a comment. I would love it! Comments make my day.  :)

July 15, 2011

Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire - Part 1

After feeling like something was missing from my teaching last year and wanting to do better I have started reading professional books. I don't remember who recommended this one, but I am grateful. Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith is a fun read. I actually had a hard time putting it down.

Some of the great things I learned or relearned:

Six Levels of Moral Development by Lawrence Kholberg 
(Teach the children where in the past they might have been at one or two, this year our goal is reaching level five or six.)

1.     I don’t want to get in trouble – based on fear and intimidation
2.     I want a reward - give me stickers, candy, or extra recess
3.     I want to please someone - tell me how proud you are
4.     I follow the rules – Here it is important to teach them about rule breakers. (Rosa Parks, MLK, Ghandi)
5.     I am considerate of other people – Attikus Finch “Walk a mile in their shoes”
6.     I have a personal code of behavior and I follow it – hardest to demonstrate but the best!


  • Teach them grammar! It is important. (I love Brian Cleary books. Fun and informative. I also like simple sentences about what we will learn that day written incorrectly on purpose. Or giving them scrambled sentences to put in order.)
  • Teach them time management - give them the opportunity to plan for themselves. Ex. You have until Friday to turn in a draft. (I wish I had learned this in elementary school. Then I would not be struggling with it as much today.)
  • Essay of the week – Assigned on Friday and collected on the next Friday (Switch up the topics, silly, serious, explicit, open-ended, genre based. So many great things to write about. All you need is to insist on good form, nice handwriting, checked for spelling and punctuation)
  • Sometimes type a couple of the essays up without putting a name on it and have student’s correct as a class.
  • Young Authors Projects - give them the opportunity to publish their writing. (I wonder could a class blog be helpful here? Could I get a mother to type them up as they are written so we can assemble a book at the end of the year?)

Teach them the why not just the how.
Teach them math is challenging but fun. Rafe used Mental Math Warm-ups, Marcy Cook Style. 

Each child has ten tiles numbered 0-9. They are then given multi step problems that challenge their minds. See her website to get a better idea. 

(Could I create something like this?) 
Rafe goes on to explain how to write basic multi-step problems that add in concepts from other disciplines. Ex. Think of how many states we have. Add the number of original colonies. Subtract the number of our current president. What number do you have? I created some of my own to help you get started. They range in difficulty because I was just trying to get my brain in gear. Feel free to change and modify as needed.

Rafe also wrote about the importance of teaching children to problem solve. Sometimes his students would come to school at 6:00 AM to practice with him. Wow!

How to Problem Solve:
1.     Understand the problem
2.     Choose an appropriate strategy
a.     Act it out
b.     Choose an operation
c.      Draw a picture
d.     Guess and check
e.     Look for a pattern
f.      Make a chart or table
g.     Make an organized list
h.     Use logical reasoning
i.       Work Backwards
3.     Solve the problem
4.     Analyze – does it make sense?

I have a lot more to share. But I think I will stop here so you can have some time to process your thoughts. Let me know what you think and enjoy!

July 14, 2011


It is nearly impossible to name all of my favorite books. So the highlights I can name off the top of my head while trying to think outside the box are listed below.

Childhood Favorites
Anything by Roald Dahl, Bill Peet, Edward Eager, or Beatrix Potter. (These are just the ones I went through a phase with, there are many other great books I read and that were read to me.) My parents read me Pippi Longstocking, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and My Father's Dragon Series. Did I mention we lived at the library in the summer? Let's just say Southern California with no AC is hard to survive.

Classroom Favorites
I also love Judy Blume, Kevin Henkes, Dr. Seuss, Cynthia Rylant, Rick Walton, JK Rowling, Boxcar Children, Mary Pope Osborne and many more. There is one that I am trying to think of and it is eluding me. Driving me a little crazy actually. Does anyone remember a book about a lemur who is afraid of everything? He hides in his house with no windows or doors and avoids shampoo. Anyone? Hmm. Curls and a Smile saved the day! Helen Lester. I love her books.

Teen Pleasures
The Twilight Books, Tamora Pierce Books, Scott Westerfeld, the Hunger Games Series, Rick Riordan, Artermis Fowl books, and many more. My new favorite that people who read and loved the Hunger Games should absolutely read? Divergent by Veronica Roth. Read it! You will LOVE it!

Professional Development
I am a work in progress. Right now I love Donalyn Miller, Debbie Miller, and Fay and Funk. I am trying to review more professional books on my blog so feel free to stop by and see what I have to say and share.

I love books and would love to share more with you. I have recently started Book Talks that tend to fall on Tuesdays, so I guess I will call them Book Talk Tuesdays. Become a follower and learn more about me and the books I read!

Thank you Rundee's Room for this opportunity.

PS I just had to share this amazing picture of a cube sculpture made completely out of books. It was shown at the Museum of Art in Provo. So cool!

I love that the books aren't even. The Jenga player in me was really tempted. There weren't even any ropes to keep people like me out. What would have happened if I saw a book I wanted to read? I don't know! But am I ever glad my husband dragged me to the museum and had his camera on hand.


I am a new teacher who recently graduated from college and is ready to try new things. I think I forgot that last year. I followed district directions and used the language arts and math programs with "fidelity." I tried to add flavor to stories and depth with authors studies. I tried to make math interactive and bring in games. And I am starting to realize while it was a good start, I could do better. So in an effort to make myself a better parent and teacher in the future I am continuing to learn and grow. I think it is the life-long learning approach in me.

This summer my whole view of teaching has been changed by books and blogs that I have been reading.

I LOVED The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and recommend it to everyone. It changes you for the better. If you are interested in reading some simple summaries or my reactions feel free to click over to Book Whisperer on the left hand side under topics or just click here. However, I recommend you check the book out yourself. Everyone I know that has read it has fallen in love.

I also enjoyed reading portions of Debbie Miller's Math Work Stations. (I have yet to buckle down and read the whole thing. I just love learning about reading a little bit more.) If you are interested in checking this one out for yourself or looking into some other great bloggers ideas click here.

I continue to learn by checking out various books from the library as well. Have to love that the books are free and that they have air conditioning. I hope to share some of my insights about teaching in posts to come. I just finished reading Rafe Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire so stay tuned for some great ideas.


I have to admit change is not my favorite thing. I know it is good and helps me grow as an individual. But I love routines and knowing what the future brings. This week one of my least favorite things happened. Change. My principal called me and said "There has been a change. We no longer need you to teach next year." Boom. Just like that. Fired before I even got the chance to start. Needless to say, I was a little devastated.
I've had a couple of days to adjust and have decided that I can deal with this change. It means I will be able to spend more time with my husband and we will be able to take a trip to meet his family I have not met this summer. I have applied to several new places and am open to working as a substitue or in other honorable roles.
Is teaching my first choice? Yes! But I am willing to grow and stretch into areas that are not comfortable for me. I am still going to be researching and reading. I refuse to stop growing. So stay tuned for updates. Just realize how lucky you are. You get to change the lives of little children. You get to prepare to teach. And you make a difference.
I am only a little jealous. :)

July 12, 2011

Fourth Grade Fuss

A new installation in my series of book reviews as I try to find new reading material for next year.

Fourth-Grade Fuss by Johanna Hurwitz
Julio Sanchez is worried to death about passing the fourth grade state test.  Follow Julio and his class as they prepares for the giant test and discover ways you can prepare for the tests in your life.

I love the idea of teaching children not to stress about the tests. The illustrations were adorable.  The characters are cute, if slightly stereotyped. My one wish is that there was more detail and voice in the story. I feel like it was the bare bones of a story and it didn't captivate me. I would still share it with my class, especially before the big tests, but it is still not my favorite.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Next on the reading list? Fourth Grade Weirdo by Martha Freedman

July 8, 2011

Donors Choose Projects

For those of you who have not heard of Donors Choose you should definitely look into it. The program connects classroom teachers with donors. All you have to do is write a proposal, submit it, get it reviewed, and then find people who will donate before your project deadline is up.

I didn't learn about this until 1/2 way through last year and I was not the best at advertising my project. A word of advice, start small and spread the word often. I picked a project that was too big and did not tell enough people. So now my project is $266 short and will not be funded if I don't complete it in 38 days. :( (Thanks to Lakeshore Learning my project was funded at the last moment!)

BUT, you don't have to be sad like me because you will be much better at spreading the word. Right? Right! Because I am really nice I am going to let you in on a killer website that will help you get your project funded. Print and Share. All you have to do is input the url of your project and they will pull up all the information and make you a spiffy poster you can put anywhere. Attack local libraries, grocery stores, bus benches and more. (With permission of course) People will have no choice but to read your poster. And then they will feel obligated to give you some of their money, right? No? Well at least you will have reached a larger audience, which means you will be more likely to get support. Worth a try.

Good luck!

July 7, 2011

Tree Hugger

I am a born and bred tree hugger. I love being outside! I love the oceans, the mountains, the forests, and I am working on loving the dessert. Right now it is too hot to love it. But try me in January when I am buried in snow and maybe my opinion will have changed. Anyways, recently as I have been blogstalking I have found several people posting about one of my favorite topics.
Recycling and Earth Awareness
Mrs. Saoud posted a new unit on Global Missions. She even included a freebie. Don't you love her? I do. :D Link over and check her out.
Mrs. B, Busy Bee also posted about TerraCycle. This is a program my school did last year, I just never knew what is was called. Basically you collect items that most people would consider trash and send them in, and then they send you a check. Granted I don't know a whole lot, because the PTA ran it last year, but it is something I am looking into starting at my new school.

July 6, 2011

Blog Button

So I hopped on the band wagon and tried to make a blog button. I'm not quite sure why they are so popular when they are such a pain in the keister, but I think I finally managed a good first try. (We're not going to talk about the fact it took me seven tries to get the size close to right.) Any ways. Thank you Ladybug for helping me piece the start together. Once I learn how to share it, I will let you know. But that seems to be an adventure for another day. Props to Mrs. Saoud for helping me figure out how to share it. See her genius tutorial at work here.

Top Ten

Things to know about me
1. My husband is my best friend and my hero (He rescues me from all my technical disasters)
2. I am addicted to books and buying them
3. I am from North Hollywood, CA and love movies and any type of media
4. I am a Christian and proud of it
5. I am addicted to blogs
6. I love crime dramas and the food network
7. I read kid books before I read adult books
8. I am a klutz
9. I love to organize things. I spend at least an hour a week organizing my digital files on dropbox. I just feel so accomplished when I see files have been moved and order reestablished.
10. I love to take care of my family.

That was a lot of fun. Want to join in? Hop over to Mrs. Owen's blog here.

July 5, 2011

Help! Somebody Get Me Out of Fourth Grade

After reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer  I realized I needed to read more books my fourth grade students might enjoy. So I set off to the public library. :D My husband laughed as I enthusiastically checked out and placed on hold any book that had fourth grade in the title.
I decided I would read each one and review it. My goal? To practice writing book reviews, think of potential questions I might ask a student who was reading this book, and find things to discuss if we read the book aloud as a class. Without further grandstanding here is book one.

Help! Somebody Get Me Out of Fourth Grade by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
Hank Zipzer, class clown is always getting into scrapes. This book, the seventh in a New York Times best-selling series takes place at the end of fourth grade. Hank sneaks a peek in Ms. Adolf's grade book only to discover "redo" written next to his name. Worried he might be held back, Hank works with his best friends Ashley and Frankie to come up with a good plan to convince his parents not to go to parent teacher conferences. With his unconventional ideas and unfortunate mishaps this book will have you giggling and worrying for Hank all at the same time. A fun read with great voice and loads of new vocabulary.

Some questions to consider:
Have you ever felt like Hank before?
Which character do you feel the most like? Who do you think you is the most different than you?
Imagine you received a brown envelope like Hank. What would you do? How would you try to distract your parents?
Have you ever had a teacher or substitute like Ms. Adolf before?
Make a top ten list of things someone (dad, mom, principal) should never say.
What is the most embarrassing thing your parents have ever done?
Do you think you and Hank would be friends? Why or why not?

I am trying to stay away from projects, but still have an open discussion with my students. Such a tricky balance. What do you think?

As a teacher I love this book because it shows that children are different. However, I don't like how most adults are portrayed.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you have a favorite part?
Stay tuned. Next on the reading list is Fourth Grade Fuss by Johanna Hurwitz.

The Poet Within

 I was looking over the new Common Core Reading Standards for Literacy for Grade 4 students when I found they would be expected to "Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters settings, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about text."

I admit I am a new teacher and it has been a while since I was in AP English, but I had no idea what prose was. So I went online, read some articles, went to the library, and checked out books. Here are some of the great things I learned and discovered.

 Dictionary.com stated "the ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse."  So in my own words, prose is normal writing. Why can't they just say that? 

A whole new beast. It involves so many different elements. You can look for verse, rhythm, meter, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, personification, irony, imagery, symbolism, simile, hyperbole, metaphor, oxymoron, assonance, and consonance. 
Those last two were a vague memory from high school so I looked them up. Assonance is the repetition of same or similar vowel sounds.  In my own words, assonance is vowel rhyming. An example of assonance is "fox in socks." Consonance is the repetition of the same consonant in a short period of time. An example is "black bugs bleed blue blood. Blue bugs bleed black blood." Doctor Seuss has several books that would be perfect treasure hunts for these poetry elements. 

Awesome books I found:
Days to Celebrate by Lee Bennett Hopkins
It is filled with monthly trivia, history, and poems. I want it in my own library.
Words, Wit, and Wonder Writing Your Own Poem by Nancy Loewn
Shows in kids friendly terms rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and similes and much more.
Poetry Matters by Ralph Fletcher
I liked this book because it teaches how to write a poem with feeling and not just to follow steps someone else has laid out. I would use this for a mini-lesson or read-aloud. I can see a young poet loving this book.
Immersed in Verse by Allan Wolf
Geared toward children who are middle school aged or older.  Great examples and illustrations.

July 3, 2011

Book Whisperer Part 5

Chapter 7 Letting Go  - The Book Whisperer

The Three main ideas I pulled from this chapter:

  • There is a pull to conform to what other people are doing and have done for a long time. 
  • I can manage my classroom without dictating everything.
  • Teaching your children to love reading is a commitment.
Wow! After devouring this book there are so many ideas running through my head. I wish it were possible to put only the best ones down, but I fear you will have to suffer through them all.

I need to assemble a library. A good one. This will be something of a challenge because before this summer I taught younger grades and now I am moving up to Fourth. The oldest I have ever taught is third and that was more of a student teaching experience. I'm going to need a whole new set of books. Yard sales just became my new best friend.

I need to develop a way of organization too! Bins and bookcases. Stickers and contact paper. Stamps and book cards. Sounds like I will need to start saving.

I am a reader. Well I was, until life got too busy and demanding. I do better in the summer time. Anyways, after reading Miller's book I realize all it takes is a little time and commitment. I think I can deal with that. I will read! I will devour books like I used to. I can't wait.

I need to read more literature to be able to connect with my future students. How can I recommend a book if I have not read it? The library is going to be my new best friend. I will have to start using a book log as well. Stories often tend to get mixed together in my head. I am great with the general details. But names... a little iffy.

I need to develop the strength to defend my teaching strategies. I know reading helps kids. I know choice makes reading fun. I know this works. I am so grateful to be at a charter school next year where research based teaching and creative thinking is encouraged. I can't wait.

July 1, 2011

Book Whisperer Part 4

More insights from Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer

Chapter 6 - Cutting the Teacher Strings
Unexamined Wallpaper - classroom practices and institutional policies that are so entrenched in school culture and a teacher's paradigm that their ability to affect student learning is never probed. (p. 122)
Think instead. What are the goals? How can I make the practice more motivating to my students and more in line with what I know about reading?

Whole Class Novels Disadvantages
No piece of text can meet the needs of all the readers, it takes forever, decreases comprehension, ignores student interest, wastes time on activities, and punishes readers who have read it before.
As someone who hated reading books as a class I know this is true. Teachers would never believe me when I said I had finished. They just gave me more busy work. Drove me crazy.

Reading the book aloud to your class or share reading where you read and they follow along. Look at extension activities. Do they involve reading, writing, and discussion?
Book groups based on a theme or concept. Start with questions you want answered. Gather books. Let the student preview them, rate them, and pick their top three groups. Look at reading levels, potential management problems, and number of books.
Use short stories, excerpts or poems to teach literary elements or reading skills

Teaching Tests as a Genre
Teach them how they are designed, terms used, the skills and knowledge they are trying to test, and how to find the answer.
An interesting idea. I agree that the terms used should be taught. Angelia from Extra Special Teaching posted a great game with some of these words. Reading Vocabulary (I heart how google reader made that so easy to find. Love it!)

Book Commercials 
Short testimonials about books they have read and enjoyed. Model. Teach what to say. Teach what not to say. Teach how to use the book. Students can then write the book down on their Books to read if they are interested. Use a simple checklist to make sure each child participates and one child does not dominate the class.

Book Reviews 
Read reviews, book jacket blurbs and teasers. What information is included? What words do they use?

  • Quotes from the book
  • Quotes from famous people
  • Cliffhanger Questions
  • Personal reactions and opinions
  • Awards the book or author has won
  • Recommended reading age
  • Other books by the same author
  • Comparisons with other books

Audio Books 
I need to get more for my classroom. Maybe it is time to break out audacity and record my own.

End of Year Evaluation
I recreated her survey and loaded it to TPT. It's FREE! So if you can use it please feel free to download it. Just click on the picture below! Any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you!

Multiplication Madness

After discovering I was moving up two grades I thought I might want to look into some of the things I need to be prepared to teach. One of those "big ideas" is multiplication and division. After doing some exploring and receiving some direction here is what I have found.

XtraMath - I used it with my second graders last year and they loved it. It is free, fun, and extremely helpful to a teacher who would rather not grade 20+ timed tests. All you need to do is sign up for a teacher account, input your children's names, and assign a grade level for them. Easy peazy. XtraMath tracks how each student is doing and sends you a detailed report every week. These reports are great to share at parent teacher conferences. Your students can even practice at home with a computer with internet access.

TimezAttack - Something I am still exploring. It has great graphics, smart AI, and it is fun. It's also free! The part I love is the kids do not realize how much they are learning. And it has a pre-test and a post-test. See if your school or district is already a part of this great game.

Arcademic Skills  - A fun website that has fun arcade games for different math subjects. My favorite has to be the Grand Prix Multiplication. You create a name and then race against 3 other players. If you have more than one computer in your room your students can race against each other. They have great games for division, money, decimals, and more. Check it out and play some of the games. I know I did. :)

Bored of the same old thing? Want more fun options your students can play in class? Head to multiplication.com for loads of interactive games. There are games about ice cream, fish, diapers, dinosaurs, penguins, and more. I played the Farm Freak Out and herded sheep, pigs, and chicken all while practicing my mad multiplication skills.
Yes, one can herd chickens. 

Fun4TheBrain.com has another list of interactive games (not all math related). Under the tab for multiplication, you move your murb character  (little monster) around town and click on items in the buildings to start the game that is perfect for your skill level.

Want to focus on the standards more? IXL has a website dedicated to math standards for each grade. (However, there is a daily practice limit and I'm just not sure I can afford a $200 subscription for my class.)

Not enough computers to go around? Look for some fun game ideas that don't involve a computer right here. Try Around the World, What's Your Number, Break My Eggs, and more great ideas.